How to Find the Right Video Production Company

Video can be a powerful and effective marketing tool for businesses any size. The medium can help startups get visibility and allow the biggest brands in the world to connect with millions.

We’ve seen startups, such as the Dollar Shave Club, make their debut incredibly powerful because of a catchy, viral video. We’ve also seen brands such as Doritos make everyone laugh and create viral success after viral success, they have even used them as Superbowl commercials.

Video is a Medium on the Rise

Video is a great medium because it’s within reach for any business. Yes, production value makes a big impact on what budget is necessary to achieve something. But if your expectations are reasonable there’s probably a good company out there who is a good fit. And, what’s more important than production value? Storytelling.

This post will show you how to fine tune your project goals as an organization, how to prepare for your video and what to (and what not to) look for in a potential creative partner for video. Most importantly, this post will help you ensure your story comes across and connects with your customers, fans, and audience.

In today’s digital world, we know that geography doesn’t impact who you work with very much. Does geography limit your reach to potential customers?

YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other video networks have users everywhere, and your customers are, too. The most important strategy is to remain authentic.

Ideas on Filmmaking

Defining Purpose and Project Goals

Projects with goals are always more successful than those without goals. Why? For one, everyone involved has something to track their efforts towards. It’s difficult to just make something cool without much purpose behind what’s ‘cool’ or even defining what ‘cool’ is- since it’s subjective.

Defining goals means that you’re organized and have a purpose. Typically, a video production team can help you work through this, but doing a little homework beforehand will benefit you in the long run.

Ask yourself:
Why are we making a video for my product/service/launch?
What do we want people to walk away with?
How will this connect with our core audience?
What impact do we want this video to have?

Every project has it’s own set of parameters, from budget to timing, location and distribution plan. These parameters are not limitations but challenges, and this is part of the reason you’re hiring a production company- to work through the diverse and complicated landscape that you don’t have a ton of experience in.

The biggest asset you have is knowing your brand, your customers, and the benefit of what works, how it works and why it works. This information and insight is the equivalent of gold to any production. All this boils down to the why.

Why? The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself Before a Project

We first need to understand why. Why the product exists, how it helps your customers, why others need this product or service. These are challenges that every marketer needs to ask themselves. Once you understand and are clear on the why, you can set goals. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.

The why of your project defines the purpose. When defining your purpose, ask yourself:

Who are we trying to reach?
Why are we doing it this way?
Why does this video exists to begin with?
How does this improve my customers lives?
When will our audience take action? (and what action do I want them to take?)
What will our intended audience tell their friends?

Defining purpose is less concrete than specific goals, but also more high level. Sometimes, purpose is defined very early on in a product lifecycle, at the onset of product development. Other times, purpose might be the equivalent to your company’s existence.

For example, a product launch video’s purpose might be nearly identical to why a product was dreamt up and developed. Many crowdfunding videos fall into this category.

In these videos, it’s often important to explain why the product exists and how it’s going to improve customer’s lives.

Lifestyle brand’s purpose for videos may be to connect with fans in it’s simplest form. But that simple sentence can actually carry a lot of weight.

In order to truly make that connection, you really have to speak to, and identify with, your core audience. You have to make something click. You need to have your audience literally think “ah, ha!” when watching your video.

When this kind of connection happens, your goals will follow. Connection on this level will make your audience want to share your video, follow your brand on Instagram, and have them seek your brand message out as a guideline for their own lives. You become influential, and in turn they want to share that influence with their networks.

Essentially, when you create a connection so strong with a fan, the feeling they get when watching your video is the exact feeling they want someone else to feel after seeing their share. It’s an incredibly powerful tool.

This is why defining goals and purpose are so important.

Video is a medium on the rise.

How to Set Goals

As noted in our process, we start our creative process with a project brief that helps gather everyone’s thoughts. The exercise is really powerful in guiding you through a thought process that makes you think about what’s important (in terms of goals, areas of focus, and purpose) and separating what’s not important. The questions start off general (timeline, project description, etc.) and get more specific (3 project goals, customer demographics, etc.).

Often times when we’re working with larger organizations, the team will be made up of several people. Each person might have their own thoughts and opinions on the project, and our project brief allows them to talk through questions and goals and get on the same page internally as an organization. It also helps them understand one another better.

The project brief has two main benefits: getting you and us on the same page, but also you and your internal team.

All of this results in a better product in the end. We’re big fans of in-depth pre-production and definitely think it makes for a smoother production and post-production process.

Finding the right Video Production Company to Work With

The Internet has brought so many powerful distribution outlets for creatives, specifically for video, there are a number of channels, with YouTube being the most popular. You’ve probably seen incredible videos out there and thought to yourself how great it would be to do something like that for your brand or company, but don’t know where to start.

Creatives tend to hang out in a few places online. We love to give digital high-fives and share with our networks great work that inspires us.

As technology progresses and our tools allow us to do more, the overlap between sub communities merges. Cinematographers become photographers, editors become producers, musicians delve into motion and so forth.

The central location for this online is Vimeo. Vimeo prides itself on a high quality player and community for creatives. By and large the content on Vimeo is very high quality and there are plenty of groups supported by individuals who love sharing and curating work.

Finding an example can be a great first step in making a video. Once you do this you can easily check out the creator’s other work. Bookmark videos you like and dissect what you like about them. You can write down adjectives and other descriptors from each one such as:

Another great trick for Vimeo is to start following a few creators you like. In the “My Feed” tab on the homepage, you can quickly see when someone you follow has uploaded something new, like or commented on a video, appeared in another video and more. This will quickly introduce you to other people who’s work you might also like.

Be Prepared: Plan & Organize Your Video, then Reach Out

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for it’s time to start planning out your video. The things you should be planning are logistics such as timing, target completion date, background info on company, goals, budget, distribution channels, etc.

Your company may already have the logistics worked out. If your deadline is based around an event, you can leverage preexisting marketing outlets with your video. If your target demographic is there, then a video can seamlessly be fit into the equation.

When you’re ready to approach a video production company, the more organized you come, the more likely you’ll start off on a good track (hint: read on for an example of this). Videos take time to produce and create, you’ll be spending a lot of time with this team. Working together goes a long way.

You know your company or product much better than the production company will. Be prepared to bring them up to speed on who you are and what your goals are. Don’t worry about creative idea or execution, this is why you’re partnering with them, they will be happy to help you along this path.

Also share with them any restrictions you might have. Is there a hard deadline for this project? What’s driving that? Do you have budget limitations (yes, everyone does) and what are they?

It’s okay to ask for a few ideas from the creative and get an explanation of what each project looks like. Ask yourself the potential ROI of each of them.

When you have a plan and a few potential creators, reach out to them. I’ve found it best to be more detailed up front and get the dialog going right away. Plus, the more details you can provide the less you’ll have to repeat during conference calls.

The details you’ve outlined and adjectives will give the production company a head start on what this project entails going into it.  If there’s a project of theirs that you particularly like mention what you like about it and why.

Creative Brainstorming

Everyone you talk to will probably have their own way of approaching projects. For us, it starts with the creative brief. We hold off on sharing creative ideas before then because everything we do has a purpose. We’re constantly asking ourselves “Why?” We are so curious we like to peel back layer after layer, until we find the meaning of our project.

Whoever you end up working with, it’s part of their job to create or develop the story your company is telling. Research, scouting locations, talking to potential characters and thinking outside the box can really go a long way.

When we approach projects we like to get the jist of what we’re dealing with, but we like to peel back each layer ourselves. This is how we connect with people, and our audience will have the same feeling.

We do this because we’re storytellers and we have to know how we’re going to structure our story. Settings, demographics, location, etc all play into our storytelling, too.

Others might not do this or have their own approach. Whichever way works for them you should respect it. You’re talking to them for a reason- you like their work and might want them to make something with you. The last thing I would recommend is trying to mix a few things up and end up with a subpar project.

When HouseCall first approached us about their explainer video they had this crazy and ambitious idea. It was complex, involved multiple shoot locations and days and had a somewhat convoluted storyline.

Their idea came out in our first meeting, after a couple of phone calls back and forth. We knew their (yet to be released) product, we knew their market and who they were targeting, we knew YouTube was the primary distribution channels and that the video would be accompanied with press releases. We knew their budget and we knew it was a good fit for each other.

Their idea was too ambitious. Their budget didn’t support it and they were taking a simple idea and making it complex. It sounded good in pitch form, but after producing videos for more than 12 years I knew it was too much, and I had to shut it down.

Taking all the information from our conversations we had and the info from the project brief, we started dreaming up a few ideas. I pitched them the idea for a single take walk through that showed the before and after in one-take. They loved it and that’s what we executed.

TAR Productions crew on location


The Projects We Look For

While there are plenty of dream projects we’d love to be a part of, we do have to work with limitations on every project. Our best work has always been the projects that sometimes seemed too lofty or the project our client had always been dreaming of tackling. This is why we’re here, after all, to support and work with our clients.

The projects that we’re dying to make are:

  • A brand new product launch: The thing you’ve been working on for 2+ years and is really going to make an impact on your company, industry and customer’s lives. We love this!
  • Lifestyle, Sports, Technology, Nature: This pretty much sums us up. Anything related to this and you’ve already got our undivided attention. This is what earned us an Emmy-Award nomination. If you really want to push it creatively we may just end up becoming best friends.
  • Something that’s never been done before. We’re explorers and creatives, we love challenging ourselves and dreaming of what’s possible. If there’s a story to tell and a way to connect with your audience, we’ll figure that out and make something remarkable.
  • Traveling to the edge of the world, and back: We cut our teeth traveling and have flown around the world many, many times. Not only are we expert navigators dealing with complex logistics, chances are we know local resources wherever it is your story takes us, making things all that much easier.
  • Storytelling. While there’s a story behind everything, this is what we do best. Sometimes you have to peel back the layers and find the story that will really catch on with your audience. It sounds hard but don’t worry, that what we’re here for.

Also, in the interests of saving all of us some time, here are the projects we’re not a good fit for:

  • You’re shopping for the lowest price: Everything we do is based on value and we only take on projects where we feel you can make more money than you pay us. We don’t compete on price and don’t even have rates. Want to know more about how we price projects, we wrote this nifty guide on how our projects are priced. Value pricing has been incredibly beneficial those we work with.
  • Projects that need to be done right away: There are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, the project you need completed in 3 days isn’t a good fit for us. We have a process and the only way we can be sure you’ll get value out of what we make together is to stick to that process. Hint: Generally speaking, it usually takes 8-12 weeks from start to completion for any given video production project.
  • The project you “just need done.” Filmmaking is a collaborational effort. And while the level of collaboration can vary between you and us, we’ll need your input. Plus, if you already have it all worked out we probably can’t add much value. We prefer to work through and solve problems together.
  • Onerous contractual terms: As I said earlier, video is a collaborative effort, and our agreement should be mutually beneficial, too. We feel so strongly about this that we made our contract open-source. If we end up working together this is where we’ll start.


There are many incredible creative communities out there. Finding the right fit for you, your team and/or your project is incredibly valuable. Taking the advice in this post and reaching out to a creative production company or agency can be the foundation that you need to take your project, and your company, to the next level.

If you’d like to reach out to TAR Productions please do so or shoot an email to Tell us a little bit about your project, why you’re doing it and why you think everyone will love it. We love hearing from everyone and look forward to our next creative project.

Don’t know where to start or how to reach out? Use this template as a guide, edit as needed to suit your needs.

Hi TAR Productions,

I was checking out your work online and really impressed. My friend [Suzanne Smith] recommended I get in touch with after I told her about a project my team has been working on.

I’m a marketing manager at [Under Armor] and we’re launching a [new line of product based around our new breakthrough, sweatproof technology for triathletes, cyclists and swimmers]. We’ve been working on it internally for 2+ years and it’s going to launch in the next 6 months, in time for the triathlon season to start. I’d love to partner with you on an awesome video that will take the product launch to the next level.

We’ll need to really make an impact with our core customers but also reach out non-endemic customers as we believe this product will have a positive effects on anyone doing general training as well.

You’ll be working with myself and our CMO, so we can move pretty quickly. We need to keep our budget in the $90k-$115k range, but might be able to allocate a bit more if the right creative idea were to present itself.

I’m happy to provide more details and I look forward to speaking with you guys about your process and how you might be able to help us make this launch a success.


Some of our favorite projects turn out to be so great because of the people we’re working with. Often times we remain friends with these clients. The one commonality between all of them is each project was kicked off with excitement and a mutual understanding and respect for one another.

Creating a video is a collaboration and emails like the above example make us feel good about the project. It makes us care even more and want to produce the best work we can. These situations make it feel less like a job and more a journey that we get to go on together.

What are your thoughts on this article? Let us know in the comments below!

11 Cinematographers to Follow on Instagram

Social media has not only changed the way we communicate with friends, peers, fans and brands alike; It has also changed the way we connect, educate, inspire. The overlapping principles between still photography and motion have provided an outlet for some of the world’s best cinematographers to connect with anyone, making their personal accounts worthwhile for a follow.

Cinematographers have always taken a backseat to photographers outside their niche. In the past, very few cinematographers would also shoot magazine covers or still campaigns for brands. But alas, we live in the digital age now and the lines are blurred, if not completely erased, as to what’s possible for these professionals.

Video is certainly a medium on the rise with Flickr, Vine, Periscope and Snapchat all embracing the medium. But a simple photograph can easily be just as powerful, and some lens masters aren’t always where you’d expect.

Below are some incredible cinematographers that will inspire you and make your Instagram feed more enjoyable.

A photo posted by Kate Arizmendi (@katearizmendi) on

Kate Arizmendi

@katearizmendi: Kate’s feed is a mix of pop, culture, art, work and women’s equality. Her feed is fun, and, of course, the occasional behind the scenes is always interesting. Based in NY, Kate shoots short films, commercials and music videos and has worked with great lifestyle brands.

Shane Hurlburt, ASC

@shanehurlbutasc: With several studio backed features to his name, and a pioneer in the digital cinema age with the Canon 5Dii shooting about 75% of Act of Valor on that camera. He, along with his wife Lydia and their team at Hurlbut Visuals, are huge educators and are constantly providing an incredible amount of valuable info to the Inner Circle.

A photo posted by Andy Best (@andy_best) on

Andy Best

@andy_best: Andy is an adventure and outdoors photographer and filmmaker. He’s an explorer for The Outbound and posts some incredible scenics. He’s officially based in Portland, OR but from his feed you can tell he’s pretty much always traveling, wandering and exploring this amazing planet we live on.

Autumn Durald Arkapaw

@addp: Besides great photos of her professional work, Autumn includes great imagery of her everyday life, such as her dog or the clouds. What’s great about these photos is that they all have a cinematic feel to them. It’s refreshing to see mundane everyday things that have a twist.

Russell Houghten

@russellhoughten: Russell is an accomplished skate filmmaker, among other things. He’s one that uses the camera as a tool, and never let’s his tools limit his creativity. He recently shot a video for New Balance Numeric only using an iPhone (a Vimeo Staff pick) and put a GoPro in a fishbowl for a creative little skate video (also a Vimeo Staff pick). His feed includes some awesome skate lifestyle and nature posts, too. So he mixes it up and I definitely recommend you check out his Instagram feed.

A photo posted by @chivexp on

Emmanuel Lubezki

@chivexp: Chivo has consistently worked with directors such as Alfonso Cuaron, Terrence Malick and Alejandro Iñarritu. His feed has some of the most beautiful images you’ll find. His commentary is short and vague, if at all. The most interesting part, he has amassed over 160k followers, has a verified account with Instagram, but there’s never a mention of who he is or any personal confirmation in his posts.

Vincent Laforet

@vincentlaforet: Recently Vincent has been posting some incredible night aerial photos of New York. He recently published a coffee table book of all these aerial images. Vincent was another pioneer in the digital SLR revolution with the Canon 5Dii.

Morgan Maassen

@morganmaasen: Morgan is an incredible surf photographer turned filmmaker. He has a couple of Vimeo’s Staff Picks and is always traveling to remote and exotic locations all over the world. He’s active in his posting and always has a unique shot or location that makes you wish you were in his shoes when the photo was taken. With over 200k followers many have started to take note.

A photo posted by Jerry Ricciotti (@jerryotti) on

Jerry Ricciotti

@jerryotti: Jerry is a DP at Vice Media, mainly shooting Vice on HBO. As you would imagine, he is always traveling to 3rd world countries, usually putting himself in precarious situations. However, Jerry always travels with a quality still camera and his account shares a different side of his travels. A majority of his images are captured on a Sony A7s or Fuji X100s, but he has been posting some incredible frame grabs from his Canon C300ii.

Reed Morano, ASC

@reedmorano Reed’s feed is full of great imagery. Whether she’s on set, scouting or posting the occasional BTS picture. She also has some candid moments with Martin Scorsese. It’s clear by her feed that Reed is a master at light and color.

A photo posted by Wally Pfister (@wpfister) on

Wally Pfister

@wpfister: I’ve really enjoyed Wally’s posts. When I first started getting into cinematographer he was one of the DP’s I would watch closer. Anytime a movie he shot came out I went to go see it (whether I was interested in the plot or not). I got to watch him on set for a day and was mesmerized by watching his vision come to life. It’s really neat to now be able to see into his professional world a little bit for. Wally shot Moneyball, one of my favorite movies.

What I really love is the everyday photos everyone posts on Instagram. Following these cinematographers provides some insight into how each of them view everyday things and where they pull inspiration from.

Are you enjoying these cinematographer’s Instagram feeds? Let us know in the comments below about any feeds you love!

Ultimate Guide to Video Production Contracts & Free Template

The Contract Template You Need

This post is chock full of great stuff on the legal side of video production and the greater professional creative services in general. Over the past 13 years we’ve been in a couple of sticky situation before and luckily we had a contract in place to protect us. Had we not had a contract, we would have been in serious jeopardy of going out of business, filing for bankruptcy or maybe been sued.

However, we learned a lot from our experiences and recently consulted with our lawyer to rewrite our entire contract from the ground up. It’s solid, and we spent over $2,500 to get it there, and now we’re open sourcing it for everyone.

Signing a contract? Make sure it includes these items...

Contracts protect both parties. When producing a video both parties have something at stake, and also have the best of intentions. Sometimes there are assumptions, sometimes there are things interpreted one way but meant another. Contracts clear all this up, and more. Contracts make sure everyone is on the same page.

Professionals use contracts, amateurs don’t.

Presenting your clients with a contract shows them that you are a professional, and you’re working with them for business purposes. We never start any work on a project without a signed contract and a deposit.

We decided to open source our contract to give back to the creative community we’re a part of. Video Production can be a tricky world, there are many variables, equipment requirements, crew members and a whole lot more, and contracts are necessary.

Our goal with this blog is to help others learn from our experiences. As I’ve said before, a rising tide lifts all ships.


Why You Need A Contract

Service Contracts are important for any business. They outline the parameters of the specific job and cover the overall relationship between the parties involved. This is where everyone gets on the same page and any confusion is removed.

Master Service Agreements (MSA) is a great thing to have, it adds credibility to the service provider and lets your customers know that they are working with a professional organization. MSAs are typically provided by the service providers.

When you have a contract, or Master Services Agreement, in place, should something unfortunate happen the contract is there to determine how to move forward. Generally speaking, most enter into an agreement with the best of intentions, but things do come up, such is life.

In the last 13 years of running a production company, we’ve only had to refer back to our contract twice to clear things up. Had we not had a contract in place we wouldn’t be in business today.

Convinced you need a solid contract but don’t know where to start? Download our boilerplate contract now.

A Note To Those Buying Video

Contracts are particularly important for creative projects because so much of the result, or final deliverables, is unknown. When someone hires us for a video we have no idea what the final product will look like, but we do know the process of getting there and have done that hundreds of times in the past. We might have an idea, storyboard, creative direction/inspiration and so forth based on our initial conversations, but until the lights and camera are out and the Director yells “Action!” is still somewhat of a mystery.

The same can be said for a website designer or any other creative. You might hire someone to design a website with X pages or a specific functionality (such as local search or online ordering), but at the commencement of that job, it’s hard to know what the layouts and art direction will look like.

It’s important to note that when you are hiring a creative you are hiring him/her/them for their knowledge and expertise. You were most likely referred to them by a friend or saw something in their portfolio that made you think “Ah, ha! This is the team for me.”

So, it’s important to let the creatives do their job and be creative. Hopefully, that process I mentioned earlier allowed you, the one hiring the creative, to get all your creatives to understand your thoughts and goals. If not, back up and have that conversation again.

This is why it’s important to price projects based on value, not time involved or cost.

For Creative Service Providers

If you want to be a professional outfit you need to have a contract in place for every customer, client, and job. There are two parts to our contracts:

  • Master Service Agreement (MSA)
  • Statement of Work (SOW)

Master Services Agreement

The MSA is the master contract covering everything between you and your client. It’s a detailed document that states who does what, who owns what, when things are to happen and how (such as payment).

When you’re working with larger clients they will sometimes ask you to sign their contract. They usually make the terms, too, which can be difficult if you’re a smaller company or just getting started. It’s hard to wait 30, 60 or even 90 days for payment.

This is where you negotiate. If there is language in the contract that is partial to the other party you need to explain why you need it changed and ask for edits. Without asking you’ll get nowhere and be bound to their terms for the rest of your relationship or project.

The MSA is only executed once between you and your client, so it’s important to talk about all terms at the onset of your relationship. Remember, you’re a professional, negotiation is not a bad thing.

As an aside, I’ve always felt that agreement is a better term than contract. The agreement sets the foundation for a healthier relationship with those who you work with.

Statement Of Work

The Statement of Work (SOW) is attached to the MSA and covers each project individually. This document is more job-specific than the MSA and covers what the scope is for each project.

Say you’re hired to produce a video for a client. When it’s all said and done they love it (of course) and want you to produce another video for them.

In this situation, all you have to do is create a new SOW that is tied to the MSA you already have with them and get working. Easy!

Our SOW covers what we’re shooting, where, how many shoot days, what is being delivered and when payment is due and any other additional notes that are project specific. The SOW covers the variables that change from project to project.

Contracts make sure everyone is on the same page.

Let Lawyers Do the Talking

You should get a lawyer and contract in place before you need one or both. Having a relationship with a lawyer is always a good thing. It’s unfortunate when situations get sticky, but sometimes that happens, sometimes it’s beyond your control.

Getting to know your lawyer will pay dividends in the long run. As your business grows, having someone to call on who is familiar with your line of work will make everything easier.

When negotiating an MSA with a new client, it’s best to let the lawyers do the talking. Your lawyer will have your best interests in mind and can talk with your clients lawyer about all the touchy subjects included.

They’re very comfortable talking about this, they do it all day, every day. Plus, when you remove yourself from these situations you can focus on having a great relationship with your new client and focus on the creative at hand.

Should you be the one doing the talking with your client about anything contractual, please do this in person- never over email. Sometimes a phone call or Skype will work, but in person is always the best for this kind of stuff.

Contracts can be a tricky business and the last thing you want to do is provide a false impression at the onset of a relationship.

Finding a Good Lawyer

Who’s ever asked their friends for a crappy lawyer? No one. Everyone wants a good lawyer. Once someone has a good, life-saving or relieving experience with a lawyer they tend to keep that relationship on good terms (same goes for storytellers and video producers, just saying).

The best way to find a good lawyer is to ask around. Ask friends, people you trust, colleagues or peers in the workplace. Ask your competitors (seriously). Lawyers by referrals are just like a you getting a referral from a client. If the project went well between you and your former client, odds are this potential project will go well, too. It’s the same with lawyers- we are all professional service providers, after all, aren’t we?

If you come up short with your friends you can try lawyers who practice different areas of law. Typically the business or litigation lawyers will stick together, as will family lawyers or criminal lawyers, but you’d be surprised how big their legal networks are.

The point is to get a lawyer before you need one. Should you ever need a lawyer having one in your rolodex or someone you’ve worked with before will behoove you.

Lawyer Limitations

Remember, your lawyer can only do so much. It’s your responsibility to have him/her understand your business and/or job functionality. This limitation can be erased after a few conversations or working together for a bit. That’s why I say a relationship with your lawyer will pay dividends in the long run.

The more your lawyer knows about your business, and the more you work with him/her, the greater the asset you will have. In these conversations with your client’s legal team, you lawyer will stick up for you and help you get the terms best suited for your growth as a business.

It’s a good idea to budget for legal with new clients. Expect a bit of negotiation and the last thing you want to do is take money that should be profit and have it all go to legal expenses. So, budget accordingly for the first couple of jobs since this is where a bulk of the negotiation will occur.

Anytime a larger client delivers you their contract have your lawyer review it. We’ve received contracts that state a project must be delivered on ¾” video tape- the state of the art video format of the 1970s.

Imagine being contractually obligated to deliver a project in a format that is extinct. I doubt the sender knew what was in the contract and sent it blindly.

My point is that contracts can be old. They can be something someone found somewhere on the Internet without even reading it.

To save cost on your lawyer reading and redlining a contract you should read it yourself first. Highlight anything specific you want to review with your lawyer- remember, you probably know more about the creative world and video production than your lawyer does, so this will behoove both of you.

Watch our reel.

A Horror Story

I fully believe that everyone enters into an agreement with the best of intentions. We once had a project where we were all set to do a video for. We had met a few times, reviewed creative, signed a contract and received a deposit. Everything was good.

Until it wasn’t. Less than 24 hours before we were scheduled to shoot we got an email from our contact saying that the company was going in three different directions and that our video was no longer needed. We had no idea this was coming and there was nothing we could do about it.

It was the 11th hour. We had already made all arrangements for the remainder of the project, including pre-production, strategy, renting gear, and booking crew. We’re screwed.

The good news, our contact said, was that he was now in need of 3 (three!) videos- but they needed a month-or-so to figure it all out. Our client assumed this was an easy switch and swap, but from our point of view, it was a completely new project. Our contract covered what would happen in this situation and we began the process of getting paid what was rightfully owed to us based on the work we had already performed.

Our client saw it differently. They assumed that since we didn’t actually shoot the project they didn’t owe us anything.

Here we were, with a lot of expense- gear rented, a crew hired and all the research, strategy, creative direction, pre production, script writing completed. These attributes are project specific and cannot be transferred over to a new project a month-or-so down the line. Worse, we had hard cash spent on a lot of these.

We work with a lot of hired freelancers on a per job basis. Once these guys are booked for a day or a job, they’re getting paid no matter what. We rely on our team to complete jobs and expect them to work hard for us. Once they have committed to us they are turning down work from others, and if we cancel on them they’re out of work. Morally, I can’t promise work and pay for our crew and not pay them, it’s just wrong.

If we back out on our end of the commitment to our team do you think they’ll continue to work for us? Our relationship with our team would deteriorate and have serious negative long-term effects on our business and reputation. (Notice how many times I’ve mentioned relationships in this post?)

Fortunately, we had a contract that covered us in this unforeseen situations. And, this is exactly why you should build a relationship with a lawyer.

It took us time to get paid, a long time. In the meantime, the company laid off 15% of its workforce and guess what, our contact was one of them. So, now we had to start the entire process of tracking our money down all over again and talk with new people. It was a disaster. The supposed promised 3 videos in a “month or so” were also gone and dusted. Just another reason why we needed to get paid for work already performed.

Learn from our mistake here and make sure your contract has a clause in there to cover you in situations such as these. This has only happened to us twice in 13+ years of business. It’s never fun, but you only learn the hard way once. Luckily for you, you found your way to our blog and will hopefully prevent it from ever happening (keep reading…).

Working With Friends

It’s really easy to work with friends, right? Or worse, family! Someone who knows you, likes you, know who you do and thinks you’d be the perfect fit for this job. Great! You trust this friend and think they’d never hurt you, overwork you or use the project in the wrong way. Until they do.

It’s really easy for friends or family to assume something is easy, ask for more revisions, expect more from you and belabor you in producing much more than you should have. Or, your friend might make recommendations that you don’t have the heart to tell her your professional opinion is different based on your experience in this world.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to work with friends, but please do it in a professional manner. Many times, when working with friends on an assumed handshake projects can take a turn for the worse and friendships are broken, time is wasted and nothing meaningful is created.

I recommend having friends and family sign contracts for any and all projects. This might be a bit awkward, but it will show them that you are a professional, and your time, knowledge and expertise are valuable and not to be overlooked. This starts your project off on the right foot. I also recommend charging a fair fee, and this fee, of course, is based on the value of the project (value pricing).

SOW example

Contract Checklist

When we had our contract reviewed a couple years ago we gave our lawyer our base template and a list of about 9 things we needed to be rewritten or added. To be honest, we got this template from a former business advisor and I have no idea where he got it from. It’s legitimacy was never questioned by us, which means it could not have been sufficient should we really need to rely on it.

The 9 or so additions or paragraph rewrites we requested were notes that we had been making over a couple of years. We took note of what clients asked for clarification on, or what they asked to be stricken or rewritten. We took many notes of language that we found didn’t stand up to the project we were taking on. We had scenarios arise during projects and found out after the fact that our contract didn’t cover us in certain, precarious situations. So we needed this fixed because it was repeatedly costing us time and profit.

Apparently, the contract template we got from our former business advisor wasn’t so great afterall. It may have worked for him, but for our video specific needs, turns out it wasn’t great. Our lawyer ended up writing us an all new contract.

Want a bullet proof contract? Include these points:

  1. Services Provided: What you will be providing to your client?
  2. Deliverables: What constitutes a “final” or “accepted” deliverable? (our revisions are stated in the specific SOW)
  3. Compensation: How you will be paid and when? (don’t forget about expenses as in example above)
  4. Confidentiality: Being professional means not sharing your client’s trade secrets with the world.
  5. Ownership: Who owns what and when. The service provider should retain ownership until the job is paid in full, always. Otherwise, you have no leverage to get paid after delivering final assets.
  6. Indemnification: You should have insurance in place, but this is also good to have in your contract.
  7. Timeline: How long you expect the project to take and key dates.
  8. Termination: What happens if a project is terminated. Make sure to cover reasonable costs and commitments already scheduled.

Contracts for video professionals provide peace of mind

Contracts for creative professionals make sure everyone is on the same page. No Surprises.

Open Source Contract Template

Now that you know all about what a contract does, why you need one, how to talk about contracts with your clients, working with friends and what it should include, you’re convinced you need one. Great! But where can you find a good contract? The Internet is full of crap.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve decided to open source our contract that we use with all our clients. Our contract has gone through several revisions and additions as things have come up over the years. So, it’s been developed over years of practice and real world situations.

However, we might be missing something, or your needs might be a little different than ours. We’re based in California, and our state might have different laws than yours. So, be sure to get this contract reviewed by a lawyer before using it.

Use our contract as a template for your business or as a starting point. Remember, we’re not lawyers, this is not legal advice, we’re storytellers, and this template is being offered as a starting point only.

Download the open-source contract template and put it to use in your business today.

How will having a strong contract help your productions? Let us know in the comments below!

Working with the World’s Most Admired Companies

Wow! What an incredible ride this has been. Last week Fortune Media released their annual list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. In the last year, TAR Productions had the opportunity to work with two brands in the Top 5 (Alphabet/Google and Berkshire Hathaway) and a couple more in the Top 50 (Samsung and Toyota)!

Fortune Top 5 Most Admired Companies

When I started TAR Productions from my college dorm room I could never have imagine the ride that was forthcoming. From traveling the world to working with the most admired companies in the world, it’s been nothing short of incredible.

Luckily, we have an incredibly talented team (more on that coming up in a blog post soon).

When reflecting on everything we’ve been able to achieve, I’m reminded of all the times we stuck to our guns, stayed focus on our vision and dream and never let the hard times get us down too far.

In the last year we worked with two of the Top-5 Most Admired Companies in the World.

This isn’t something we ever set out to do. We set out to create connections and tell storeis. While we always strive to make bigger and better projects, working with two of the most prestigious companies in the world was never a core goal. It just happened that way. We stuck to our guns, what we believe in and kept our head down. If we can do it, you can do it. It will take hard work, and there will be times it’s trying, but keep at it and always be improving and you too can achieve greatness. We can’t wait for the ride ahead and happy to have you alongside with us. Subscribe to get emails for each new blog post.

What are your thoughts on this article? Let us know in the comments below!

In-House vs Agency – 7 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Video Production Company

When Value is Important

As the barriers to entry in video production are knocked down by mobile phones that supposedly can shoot and edit 4K and social media networks that can reach millions of fans, brands have started hiring internal “videographers” to capitalize on this magic. Someone who knows to work a DSLR, has a Mac with iMovie and the password to YouTube and Snapchat accounts, and with a little luck can catch the unicorn. Millions of viewers are out there just waiting for your video magic.

While this is true and that can happen, it’s not very likely. A few years ago, almost every conversation I had with prospective clients it was very clear that they wanted a video to go “viral.” But having the tools necessary to create a viral video is different that having a video go viral.

Owning a typewriter does not make you a Hemingway.

In today’s world, where Branded Entertainment is the driving force connecting customers with brands, your story is key. Depending on the size of your company and goals it might not make sense to hire a full-time in-house videographer. Beyond a base salary and finding the right person, you have to support this person with the needed infrastructure to be successful. Here are 7 reasons to fire your videographer and work closely with a creative production company on your next video.

In-House vs Agency

  1. A “Videographer” Just Won’t Cut It.
    A one man band will have trouble wearing many hats. Creative, planning, directing, lighting, editing, color grading and distributing is a lot to ask for one person. When you’re that close to a project it’s hard to identify the flaws and where and how it can be improved. If you want to create media that is professional and at the level your customers expect, you need to have a fully qualified team. Even if you had a 3 person team, you have to find talents that mesh well and are complementary to one another. Beyond that, you have to push out enough projects to keep these 3 individuals busy and happy.
    The word “videographer” underscores that many people don’t value video or understand it’s potential. It’s not really a word, and it’s definitely not synonymous with photographer. There are so many layers of video it’s hard to be a jack of all trades and produce quality content.
  2. Freelancer Team Can Be Problematic.
    Managing a team of freelancers can be a time suck. Unless you’ve done it several times, have the contacts and know who wills each role best, you’re going to be stuck figuring out a lot of logistics on the fly. You’re also managing scheduling of several different people, and freelancers book as much work as possible. You’d hate to have a multi-day shoot only to find out that one person isn’t available for 2 days in the middle of your desired shoot dates.

Hiring an agency = Good advice.

  1. In-House is Expensive.
    Finding and growing an internal team is time consuming and expensive. Talent is not a commodity and the field is becoming more competitive. Video production requires a lot of collaboration and personalities that don’t mesh well can be distractive and disastrous. You’ll also be in charge of defining your company’s mission and overarching goals with video.
  2. Buying Video Gear is a Poor Investment.
    Video production equipment and cameras are ever changing. Taking advantage of the latest tools that help tell your story are hugely important. The catch is that unless you use it on a regular basis it’s probably going to collect more dust than it’s used. And once you feel good about that investment being worthwhile there is probably a new tool that is better. Plus, if your videographer leaves the company who is going to know what to do with this equipment and how to operate it?
  3. Are you a storyteller?
    Do you have the skills and expertise to deliver your brand’s message in this medium? Are you aware of the precise differences from YouTube to Facebook to Instagram or Snapchat? Over the last 12 years, we have defined and iterated on our process to produce the most meaningful work with distribution in mind. Keeping up with what goes on behind the scenes to bring these stories to life is a full-time commitment.

Watch our commercial for Penny Skateboards, which we produced for Wasserman Creative group.

TV static, make sure your video has a clear message.

A clear message is imperative for video. As are these 7 tips:

  1. Originality
    Over time your internal team or videographer can become stagnant and lack a creative drive. Creatives need to be challenged and have the option to share new ideas in new ways. Tasking an internal employee with repetitive, mundane daily chores can suck the life out him or her. This will ultimate limit your options and sacrifice the outcome of your efforts.
  2. Video is ever changing
    Can a single person or small team stay current with trends?
    Connecting with your customers is the single most important factor when making a video. The way we tell stories have changed over the years, new techniques trend, new breakthrough technology become ubiquitous. Staying ahead and being an influencer can add an incredible amount of value that impresses your customers, creates lifelong fans and gets more social traction. Partnering with a professional team of creatives will give you a better option or realizing your goals and succeeding with them.

Boutique video production companies are experienced, have a process and team in place that creates a larger impact in conjunction with your current marketing efforts. The are well oil machines that are on top of storytelling trends, have crews that work well together and help ensure your brand is looking great.

They are used to problem-solving and can working around limitations with the right plan in place. They push themselves to always create the best possible product possible. They are effective and can take on projects quickly and efficiently.


Working on your own videos? Download the free budgeting templates now.


Production companies have several advantages over internal “videographers.” The fresh perspective and top talent should be reason enough alone to partner. Please reach out to TAR Productions to create magic for your next campaign.

An argument can be made to have an internal team or videographer but there are many factors to consider to ensure success.

What are your thoughts on having an in-house videographer or working with a production company to execute videos for marketing campaigns?

Asking Professionals to Work for Free

We are big fans of value pricing at TAR Productions. We’ve preached, practiced, taught others and have seen the rewards of value pricing for our clients such as Quiksilver, Peter Harsch Prosthetics and Helping Haitian Angels.

We’ve outlined how we budget projects and make sure we’re running a business at a profit.

We do this because we love what we do. We care about our industry and have taken it upon ourselves to leave it a better place than when we started. There will always be someone willing to work less than you are, which is why we stopped competing on price several years ago.

We don’t get a lot of requests to work for free, but they do occasionally come in. I’ve never understood this for a video production company. Although it’s poor practice, advertising agencies do this fairly frequently in hopes (I stress hope) of winning new business.

What professionals think when you ask for free work. #saynotospec

I met up with a friend from an agency also headquartered in San Diego recently and we started talking business. He candidly let me know about two pitches for huge brands that they lost.

One brand they lost on the first round, the other brand they lost on the last round. By his estimate, the company had spent over $60,000 on salaries alone for those pitches.

The look on his face was pure disaster.

The agency is really talented and it’s portfolio alone easily proved they were worth their weight in salt for these brands. It’s unfortunate and brutal.

It’s time we all said no to spec.

If we’re professionals…

Any professional has an expectation to get paid for his or her work, and rightly so. Being a professional means much more than this, however. Being a professional not only means that you are skilled in your trade or profession, but you are an expert. you have studied your field, practiced in it, put years of hard work in and have made an impact in your industry.

Architects, personal trainers, lawyers, real estate professionals, developers, marketers (this list goes on forever) don’t work for free. But creatives do! But, why?

Why do creatives work for free? Is it because we love our craft so much we want to live it every single day? Is it because with the right opportunity that lets us express ourselves uniquely we can gain equity and/or credibility that will take our careers to unprecedented levels? I assume so.

But can a new building do the same for an architect? Yeah. Can a new, high profile client do the same for a personal trainer? Definitely. Can a huge case do the same for a lawyer? Absolutely. Do you see anyone in those professions working for free? No, never.

ZuluAlphaKilo put together this video of other professions reactions to working for free:

You want it FREE??? #saynotospec

When a client begs for free work, say no. #saynotospec

We work with agencies pretty regularly. It’s great to partner with other creatives who have taken the time to understand a brand and come up with ideas to enhance their presence. We love to execute on their ideas.

To produce a video it takes a small army of talented crew. It takes plenty of gear (look through our Instagram account for Behind the Scenes photos). These hard costs are reason enough for us to never work for free.

It’s understandable that everyone has a budget. But only so much can be done with limited budgets. When talking with prospective clients we typically stay away from talking about our costs, we talk about value- something that is far more important for both parties.

Hate working for free? Download our free budget templates now and quickly see if you’re making a profit or not.

Next time someone approaches you about work for free show them this blog post or the video above.

What are your thoughts on working for free and value pricing? Let us know in the comments below!

Consumer Drone Ethics in Filmmaking

Drone Ethics

By now you know we’re big fans of aerial filmmaking here at TAR Productions. We have extensive experience shooting aerials from drones and helicopters and have constantly pushed for safe and practical flying.

As a reminder here are some posts we’ve published this year alone: (Epic Drone Water Shots, Drone Surf Check)

We also make it explicitly clear that operating and flying drones require great skill, caution, and care. It’s one of the reasons I take a selfie before every drone shoot we do– in case we crash or lose the craft, someone can pop in the card and see who is responsible for flying it.

The popularity of small drones, GoPro’s, and low costs have made the drone industry explode over the last couple of years. With more and more “pilots” entering the industry, there are, inevitably, more and more crashes, flyaways and danger in the air.

Some pilots are literally throwing caution to the wind when they’re flying without knowing what they are doing or how to fly.

Working on your own videos? Download our free budget templates now.

My first drone I practiced at an empty park over grass for 10 hours of flying time before putting the gimbal and camera on. This is standard practice, but not everyone follows these guidelines, but they should.

Flying without a camera on means you are 100% focused on the craft, not the imagery you are capturing. I cannot overstate this enough. If you have a First Person View (FPV) with telemetry you are focused on what the camera sees, not where your drone is in the air.

For this reason, I’m a big fan of dual operator mode: one person piloting the craft and the other controlling the camera. Dual pilots are safer and provide better results.

Once the camera goes on FPV and OnScreen Display info are imperative. You always should know where your drone is in relation to where you took off. How high and how far you’ve traveled are info you always should be aware of. Also, info such as battery voltage is hugely important for preventing crashes and flyaways.

I touched on something a few paragraphs ago that was probably an oversight. I mentioned guidelines that you should follow. The huge problem in the drone world right now is that no one has an authoritative voice on what to do, what not to do and how or how not to do it.

The FAA is a Federal Government agency that is likely not funded very well and desperately in need of more resources. They are being pressured by other agencies and media outlets to get rules out, but the reality is that the drone industry is so new and moving so quickly they simply cannot keep up

Drones are seemingly everywhere.

Crashes & Flyaways Happen

The reality is that drone crashes will happen. They’ve happened to many professionals, they’ve happened to us a few times.

For unknown reasons, we’ve had flyaways or temporarily lost control. Sometimes this was in an open area with no one around and we were not causing harm to anyone. Other times we were above water or on a mountainside where the chances of getting our drone back would have been slim to none.

Even if you follow all precautions and launch your drone the “right” way you can still have things go wrong. Just like cars, trains, airplanes and boats, things don’t always go as planned.

What is the protocol for these situations? Is there a punishment or fine that should be levied on drone pilots?

I honestly don’t know the right answer to that. I’m torn in ways, too.

For one, I feel very strongly that everyone should practice safe flying and take the time to learn how to fly. I also feel that anyone who is responsible should be able to do this, just like driving a car.

I personally have had a lot of fun flying our drone and have captured some incredible shots from it. Our Instagram feed is chock full of great aerial shots.

But I don’t want to see our skies and neighborhood full of drones from people fooling around and not being safe. A drone flew over the White House this year, I definitely don’t want that to happen at my house, that’s for sure.

The reality is that drone crashes will happen, even to professionals.

The Ethics of Drones and Filmmaking

Drones are so awesome for the filmmaking community because the increase production value and let creativity fly, literally. Never before have we been able to achieve shots that drones provide.

Hobbyists have long been able to fly remote control aircraft within a certain set of parameters. Drones are essentially the same thing but with a modern name (one that has certain negative connotations when compared to military drones and drone strikes).

So the question is asked, what is the difference between hobbyist and professionals, or even simply working for commerce, drone operators? The fact that money is being exchanged, should that change the way drones are regulated?

Do drone operators need a license to fly drones for real estate or branded entertainment purposes just because they are receiving money for their services?

This is another answer I don’t have, but I do have some thoughts on it.

I do think there should be regulation on drones, hobbyists, and professionals, but I don’t think that these two should be distinguishable or receive separate treatment.

If you’re flying and breaking a law, or flying recklessly, then some kind of regulation and/or punishment is in order.

How we distinguish this is somewhat in an area of grey. As I said earlier, I’ve crashed before. I’ve never flown recklessly or with an intention to hurt, and I think most people are the same way. It going to be very hard for the FAA to determine what is reckless and what is not.

I think a flight recorder that records telemetry, speed, actuary data are needed that can be reviewed by any authority when proper cause is suspected. This is similar to how a police officer can search someone and arrest them on the spot if they are doing something illegal, such as drunk driving.

Yes, further and more thorough investigation are in order but skies that are the Wild Wild West will ultimately hurt everyone.

By no means am I suggesting that any agency has outright authority or control without their own guidelines either. It’s still early in the drone industry and the decision we, as a community, make now are going to affect how we shape the potential.

Drone shot over industrial area

Drone shot over downtown San Diego Bay

Autonomous Flying

The technology for autonomous flying is advancing a rapid pace. This will definitely help make our skies safer. Drone manufacturers are the same as car manufacturers and they should be held responsible or require to include certain safety features.

Car manufacturers face stiff laws and competition in safety features, it’s one of their largest R&D spends each year. The benefit from this is not just them selling more vehicles, it’s everyone- from drivers to passengers, pedestrians, cyclist and more.

I think drones should be the same way. The sense and avoid technology is in its infancy but maturing at a rate you’d expect in modern technology. It’s not perfect, and might not ever be, but it will make for safer skies.

But technology like sense and avoid isn’t the only thing. Batteries are still the largest limiting factor to drones, something I mentioned in our 2015 drone roundup article. Thanks to the emergence of electric vehicles and proliferation of laptops and mobile phones running on batteries the technology is advancing, but not fast enough. Batteries are terrible for the environment. So, we need batteries that last longer, charge faster and can have more cycles than currently available.

Drone Registration

There are rumors about pending drone registration. Lawmakers are calling to fast track drone regulations and laws. I’m certainly a fan for regulation, but I don’t think that regulations alone will solve the problem.

If government subcommittees are responsible for creating regulations, will they be the one to oversee them? And update them? Will they be the one who works with drone manufacturers on creating safer drones, working with them on new technology, supporting their efforts for safer skies?

It seems to me that we need a body who is passionate about drones and wants to see their fullest potential.

Update: It appears the drone registration proposal has been published, at least for initial commenting. The interesting part of this proposal is that it’s been published by the Department of Transportation, not the FAA.

The DOT is still a federal agency, which probably means they are strapped for funding and people. They report still uses vague terminology and hopes to have more details on November 20, 2015.

What are your thoughts on drones, ethics, technology and government involvement?

Tim Ryan is Featured Guest on Businessology Podcast

TAR Production’s Founder and Director, Tim Ryan, was a featured guest on the Businessology Podcast.

The Businessology Podcast is beloved podcast in the creative, design, agency and now production world. Hosted by Jason Blumer of Blumer CPAs, he and Tim do a 1 hour deep dive into the world of video production, the similarities and differences in running a video production firm and a design agency and more.

Listen to TAR Founder Tim Ryan on the Businessology show

The Businessology Podcast has a great group of other guests and I was honored to be part of the show. I, myself, am a big fan and listen to every episode I get a chance too.

Show Notes:

1:30 Intro to TAR Productions

2:45 Similarities and differences from Video Production companies and creative agencies

4:45 Working with niche freelancers

6:00 Networking in production

9:32 Similarities in processes with designers

13:35 Never say “fix it in post”

15:20 Consistency in business

18:38 What clients always want

19:02 Why we reinvest in every project

20:10 How clients perceive your work

21:00 Value pricing in video production

22:53 Explaining Production Value in proposals

25:30 How to sell video production

28:00 Video is a medium on the rise

30:57 Does content marketing work for video production companies?

35:22 Power of Behind the Scenes photos

38:00 Behind the Scenes time lapse from our shoot

39:15 Why I educate our competitors

41:00 Competing with amateurs who work at much lower rates

43:00 The brutal side of owning a creative business

45:30 Tricks and tips for selling video production

46:50 Talking about budget

51:00 Feedback from prospective clients on proposals

57:00 Inherit value we bring to projects

1:00:00 Process working with clients vs process working with team

1:03:30 Getting your portfolio to where you want and having it sell itself


We touch on so much in this episode! Tim runs a video production company to help clients tell their stories. Since we don’t have too many video production company owners on the show, we took time to compare a video production company to a web/design agency. There are similarities and differences, and we glean some learning from this truth.

Things Tim Ryan is always working on:
– Consistency in keeping the work coming in.
– How clients buy video production services (is it a commodity?).
– How Tim creatively networks with contractors so he’ll know who to hire next.
– Value awareness of the creative business owner, and how to use this to price a client.
– So much more!

Show Links:
TAR Productions
TAR’s Vimeo Profile
TAR’s Twitter Profile
TAR’s Linkedin Profile
Behind the scenes time lapse product shoot with TAR Productions

Any questions for us from the show? Let us know below and we’ll start an online conversation.

The How and Why of Video Production Budget & Templates

Anytime you work in creative professional services it’s hard to put a value to it, especially when talking about your own work. It’s even harder to judge what someone else will value your work and services at.  

To further complicate things, two people may value your services completely different; read: yourself and a prospective client.

When you’re a freelancer, business owner or employee it can be pretty hard to receive feedback that your services are deemed less valuable- or not valuable enough to justify hiring you for a job.

Film & Video budget templates. (free)

When you’re just starting out you’re more likely to take on jobs to build up a portfolio or network with others. I’m not against this at all, but I see it happen far too often and for far too long into someone’s career. It seems there’s always another job that you want so bad you’re willing to discount your rate, justified by the fact that the marketing power from this project will pay a positive ROI.

This is something we deal with on a regular basis at TAR Productions. We constantly get asked for a quote on jobs where people assume it’s as simple as looking up a rate sheet.

As creatives, we need to remember that we’re also a business. I’ve been able to build up a company built around value, and our services to customers are of great value. And we need to charge a premium for this.

We don’t work off a rate sheet, and by now you know that we’re big fans of value pricing projects. Value pricing in professional creative services makes sense for all parties involved. Production value isn’t something found in a rate sheet.

We have a rate sheet for reference, but this is to reference what we pay freelancers. We reference this to make sure we’re turning a profit on each job. 

In early meetings with prospective clients we’re asking them what their end goals are and what a successful project/campaign will look like. These answers give us so much info into what needs to go into a project and how to translate that into production value.

Think about it: your client is thinking about selling more T-shirts and pants. They might say they’re currently selling 10,000 pants per season, but this upcoming season they want to sell 25,000 pants. 2.5x increase and that goal is incredibly valuable to them. Besides selling more pants, they’re gaining new customers and fans, increasing their reach, creating residual value in their brand that will pay dividends for seasons to come. How valuable is this?

Production value isn’t something found in a rate sheet.

Your client not thinking this project needs to be shot in slow motion with a gyrostabilizer. They’re not thinking that a custom score and sound design is going to take this project to the next level. They’re not thinking that the voice over should be ominous and powerful (all things to consider when creating a budget). They’re thinking about selling more pants, the end goal, and looking to you, the expert, to help them with that.


Taking what you learn from your early meeting with your prospective client you can gauge what it’s going to take to deliver a successful project. Clients will ask how much this is going to cost. They always do. When this happens you need to be prepared to give a range, ballpark or number. There are a few ways we go about figuring this out.

When budget comes up in your meeting (this is usually towards the end of it) you need to be confident in your delivery. Make eye contact and be upfront on what it’s going to cost. Take risks on pricing if you’re looking to grow your business.

Whatever you do, when asked how much this is going to cost, do not say “ummmm…” with a blank stare on your face. If you say this you just lost at least 10% of your budget immediately.

If you don’t know how much it’s going to cost let them know that you’ll figure it out and get back to them. Explain it’s complicated and there are a lot of variables that go into a project. But confidence is key here.

Working on a production budget

Always taking notes when making a budget, as there are so many variables in production

Want to know how we narrow down budgets? It’s easy, we ask. This can be hit or miss. Sometimes we’ll get a very straight forward answer, something along the lines of “Our budget is $X.”

Other times we’ll get wide eyes and a shoulder shrug. When this happens I can’t help but think that the project isn’t all that important to them.

Sometimes we’ll get a response such as “We’re not sharing our budget and looking at who is going to be most competitive.”

This is when we kindly inform our clients that we don’t compete on price and tell them why.

However, we always have to give our prospective clients the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes they have no idea. There is always a chance that they have never done a video before and don’t know what’s involved.

This is always a pivotal part of the conversation. This is where you can differentiate yourself from your competition and really earn your client’s trust.

Your client might think you’re two guys with a decent video camera when you’re really bringing out an entire crew, with big lights, lenses and a strategy to ensure success.

Narrowing Down a Range

One thing that we’ve found pretty helpful is asking what their range is. We’ll ask if it’s closer to $5,000, $50,000 or $250,000. We’ll usually get a pretty good idea of what we’re talking about here.

We always follow our process for all projects, but if we spark some initial ideas during one of these conversations we’re not afraid to ballpark a budget required for that project. This could always be our blue sky idea that is totally awesome (and might cost a lot to do). The worse that can happen is you’re shot down and move on to option B.

In other words, don’t waste each other’s time talking about amazing, incredible projects that are out of budget. No matter how cool the idea is, if the budget doesn’t support it and it’s not an option, why are you talking about it to begin with?


Outdoor lighting with silk modifier


So you’re hooked on value pricing, great! But you still want to make sure you’re running a profitable business. I’ve included two budget templates below for you to use and make sure everything is making square business sense.

We work with several freelancers with various backgrounds and they’re all worth their salt. We have set rates with all of them and when I’m building a project budget I usually include their rate, number of days and who will be working a specific role.

Another great thing about a budget template is that you have a list of all the roles you might need for a project. Forgot to include a boom operator in the original ballpark? A template with all the roles you could ever need is really useful.

Not every time will you need a 25+ person crew, sometimes just a few people will do. And for that we’ve created a simpler budgeting template.

There are lines for contingencies and commissions if needed. Remember, these templates are so you can measure if you’re running a profit.

Another great feature of using budget templates is that you can quickly see what the bottom lines comes to. If you need to increase or decrease certain fields based on your client’s budget you can do so.

For example, if your budget comes in under your client’s budget and you think you can use a field producer for a few extra days during pre-production bring her on board early (pro tip: you’ll always end up with a better product when you’re more prepared).

We’ve included two budget templates: simple and detailed. The simple budget is great for a majority of the shoots you’re probably going on. You can add or hide rows as needed and change the commission or contingency structures.

The detailed budget is pretty complex and makes more sense when you’re working with large crews and several shoot days. If you are working on a large production your Line Producer will love you for being so organized.

Working on your own videos? Download our free budget templates now.

What questions do you have about budgeting for film and video productions?